Two Sheep Shows in Two Days

Fri., July 29, 2016

Psalm 23:1: The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.

I was fortunate. I grew up on a farm. This allowed me to learn lots of important and life-long lessons early in life; lessons I reflect upon regularly. My sisters and I raised sheep. Having been a shepherd myself, I am drawn to passages of scripture that speak of sheep and shepherding. As a pastor, I see the correlation even more poignantly!

For years, my sisters and I exhibited and showed sheep through 4-H and FFA. It was a great time in my life. Yesterday and today, in a 24-hour time frame, I drug my husband, Rick, to two sheep shows to watch people important to us have their 4-H and FFA experience.

Thursday afternoon, we attended the Columbia County Fair. One of my roommates from college is Barb. Her kids, Zachary and Megan, show sheep at this fair. Barb grew up on a dairy farm. Her husband, Dave, showed beef. Sheep have been a new experience for their family.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the end of the sheep show, as we headed north to drop two grandsons off enroute to my sister’s, Debbie’s, house. Her son, Kevin, showed at the Eau Claire County Fair today.

I think my brother-in-law was pleased when I suggested going up early with my sister and nephew to help get the sheep ready. This allowed he and Rick to come a little later. Thea is a friend of Kevin and Debbie’s. She showed sheep this year for the first time. Maybe a little anxious when she arrived at the fair, Thea and I took her lamb for a walk. We went over how to set her lamb up, where to stand in relationship to the judge, what questions she might be asked. Thea was a little sponge and quickly absorbed everything we reviewed.

Going to fairs brings back lots of memories from when I showed sheep and dairy. In the years I showed, I remember standing not at the top of the class many, many more times than being the class winner. My Dad impressed to me that “winning” wasn’t most important. Properly preparing my animals, doing my very best, enjoying what I was doing, representing agriculture well were far more important than the color of ribbon I received. Of course, there were times I had a different opinion than the judge. This was OK. Yet I needed to respect and appreciate the person who took time to judge everyone’s animals at the fair.

As a shepherd of a different kind of flock these days, these same live lessons apply. Being prepared for whatever I do is so important. When I do my best, God will bless and anoint my efforts. Having fun in the process makes life far more rewarding, even on the most challenging of days. Representing myself as a Christian first in all that I say and do draws a positive light to God and my Savior, Jesus Christ. Every day, I have differences of opinions about how things should go. Thank goodness, God knows more of what I need on a daily basis and provides me with what I absolutely need just for today.

Most importantly, I am so thankful a have the ultimate shepherd in my life: a shepherd who loves me even when I get loose and run around; a shepherd who overlooks my flaws and loves me unconditionally; a shepherd who sees my potential and draws out the best in me; a shepherd who knows the journey is far more important than ribbon color. I am thankful I have a shepherd in my life who does this and so much more. These lessons I began to learn 40 years ago continue today; just in a little different context. Thank you, Lord, for being the shepherd of my life.

Where would I be without you as my good shepherd? Thank goodness you know what I need more than I do. Thank you for loving me even when I’m unlovable. Thank you for seeing my full potential and drawing it out of me.  Amen.

 Blessings –

Dianne

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Time in Trego

Fri., July 22, 2016

Luke 10:41-42: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I have struggled with the story of sisters Martha and Mary for years. While at their house, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and hangs onto every word he teaches. Meanwhile, Martha is stewing in the kitchen. She’s preparing the meal, getting the table set, making sure everyone’s dirty and stinky feet have been cleaned. Finally, exasperated, she asks Jesus to tell Mary to come and help her. Jesus’ response shocks Martha: “Martha, Martha, don’t you see Mary has chosen the better way?”

It’s the classic struggle between doing and being. I’ve spent the majority of my life doing. Being isn’t very natural for me. The to-do list is always more important than practicing the things I talk about on Sunday mornings. I’ve constantly a recovering do-aholic.

Last Saturday, I attended the funeral for a 43-year-old woman. Someone several years younger than I am. She didn’t take her life. For some reason, she died. As I sat in the service, I had this overwhelming feeling that it had been too long since I’d been in a service where I just sat and worshiped. All the doing caught up with me. Nothing like a little mortality to get a person thinking.

I had previously blocked off a few days this week to regroup. I call this time “Study Break.” It’s a time when I get away all by myself to listen for God, pray, read, reflect and reconnect with God. Pretty awful when a pastor needs time away to do these things, right? But I do.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a study break. My desired spot is a little cabin just outside of Trego, WI. It’s in the north woods and owned by the person who has been my friend the longest. Pam and I grew up going to the same church. Our parents have been friends for years. We went to Sunday School, VBS, confirmation and a whole bunch of other things together. Years ago, Pam made her cabin available to me. It’s become a place of respite for me.

Since it’s been a few years since I’d been to Trego, things had changed:

  • Cell phone service is much better. Getting the internet is still sketchy. I go to the Spooner Library for this.
  • Pam and her husband Bob have made some changes to the cabin: a new steel red roof and a handsome deck on the back.
  • I try to find a balance while there taking care of myself (eating well and exercise), work and quiet and reflection time. I’m not in as good of physical shape as previous years. I used to run every morning and bike every night. This time, I didn’t even bring my bike and chose to kayak the Namekagon instead. I still ran and hiked my favorite trails. Time away includes recommitting to taking better care of myself.

Time here allows me to slow down and not miss things. Hundreds of deer grazing at dusk. Multiple families of ducks gathered to eat. Or maybe it is mating season? I’m not sure. Seeing how recent hard rains have affected the local area.

Every time I leave Trego, I promise myself I will be more attentive to creating space to be and not just do when I’m home. Unfortunately, this usually only lasts a few days. Again, I’ve made this promise to myself. Years ago, I attended the funeral for my parent’s neighbor, Helen. The pastor talked about how Helen had achieved a rare balance of Martha and Mary in her life. She knew how to sit and leisurely have a cup of coffee. Of course, there were plenty of cookies in the freezer to go with the coffee. I struggle with this and probably will for a long time. This is why time in Trego, or wherever your respite maybe, is so important.

At times, our to-do lists seem insurmountable. How can we ever get it all done? Thank you for giving us examples of people, like Mary, who seemingly understood that life is more than doing but also being. Help me create time and space in my life to simply be with you.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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“Who Mowed Jesus’ Lawn?”

how-to-mow-your-lawn-1

Wed., July 20, 2016

Genesis 1:29-30: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

“Pastor Dianne, who mowed Jesus’ lawn?”

Four-year-old Parker came bounding into the small country church I serve one Sunday morning. He could hardly get the big door open by himself, but he was so excited that someone had mowed Jesus’ lawn. Did I know who?

This little guy’s enthusiasm was simply contagious. His words quickly put a smile on everyone’s face. Yet, I think we were all thinking the same response: Do we tell him it’s not Jesus’ lawn?

Actually, I think Parker’s comments were so appropriate. It IS Jesus’ lawn. As adults, we get very territorial about things: when someone sits in our pew; when our favorite church tradition is tweaked; when music we prefer isn’t the main songs sung every week. After all, it is OUR church, right?

But this is where pint-sized Parker has it right. Too often, we forget that the church buildings where we worship and might be members aren’t OUR churches. They are GOD’s church that we have the great privilege to be a part of. We think the money we give to the church should be spent the way we want it spent. We want everyone to love our ideas and not poo-pa them. While our intentions are often admirable, too often we focus on what WE want and desire than what GOD would want us to embody.

When God created humanity, God gave us a huge responsibility. We are to care for God’s creation. What often happens though is we assume it is OUR creation and forget who IS the creator. Our role is not creator but caretakers: of churches, of ministries, of families, of houses and yes, of lawns. In this sense, Parker has it exactly correct.

During worship, we discovered who did mow Jesus’ lawn. Kevin had mowed it the day before and shared a special story. While mowing, a man stopped by. A few weeks earlier, the church had sponsored a rummage sale. All proceeds are going to the local Blessings in a Backpack, which helps provide food for needy kids on weekends during the school year. The man had purchased an item at the sale but wasn’t sure it worked. He took it home and sure enough, it did work! He stopped by the church to drop off $50 in payment for the item. Had Kevin not been mowing Jesus’ lawn, the man would not have found someone at the church that day. A mowed lawn and another donation to feeding hungry kids. This is what being caretakers of God’s kingdom looks like. Thanks be to God.

Lord God, thank you for reminding us through the innocent eyes of a little boy that the church lawn IS your lawn. Too often, we forget the church was not created by us but by you. And the purpose of this church is to bring YOU glory and honor and not ourselves. Help us to keep perspective of being caretakers of your kingdom.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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